In this blog, we spoke to Queen Mary University of London Medical Genetics alumna Atalanta Hersey. She offers her advice on how to prepare for university life.
Make a list of what you’ll need and be realistic
Moving to university is exciting and something I’m sure you’ve been looking forward to for a long time. However, planning is absolutely essential when it comes to shopping for university. Ask any family or friends who are already at university and find out what they couldn’t have survived halls without and also what they had that was totally pointless. You might have your heart set on a 12 piece crockery set from John Lewis, but let me assure you, you do not need it. For kitchen things, I’d suggest you actually only really need one or two of most things (a glass, a mug, a bowl) and two sets of cutlery. This way you have to do your washing up regularly and it’s easy to keep track of. Planning is also very important. If you go into Ikea without a plan I guarantee you will leave with a lot of things you don’t need.
Learn how to make some simple meals
It’s completely ok to have never cooked a meal for yourself before - many students come to university in this position. But given that there is time over the summer before you move to your new home, why not spend an evening a week cooking (perhaps with a friend or family member) to get confident with a couple of meals before you head to university. Simple but substantial meals could include spaghetti bolognese, fajitas, or jacket potatoes with various toppings.
Learn how to do laundry
You don’t want to be the person talking to your parent/guardian on Facetime when you realise you’ve run out of clean clothes and it’s now midnight, and you are in the laundry room trying to work out what the buttons on the machine mean. If you don’t know how to do your laundry, ask a member of your family to take you through it before you go. It’ll be worth it.
Make a budget and stick to it
Making a budget is key. Work out how much money you’ll have to spend per week and keep track. Don’t feel like you need to aim to spend that either – the more you save the more you’ll have for a trip or that meal out in central London. If you struggle to keep track of money, I’d recommend getting Monzo. It’s a great bank that allows you to set spending budgets, see an easy summary of your spending and get instant notifications via an app. If you recommend it to a friend, send them your referral code and you’ll earn £5 per friend who signs up. (They aren’t sponsoring me to say this, I just think it’s great.)
Get a Railcard and link it to your Oyster card
I’d definitely recommend getting a 16-25 Railcard. Some banks offer this as a free incentive to choose them for your student account, but it’s definitely worth having. This will save you 1/3 on trains all over England, which is great for visiting school friends. If you link it to your Oyster card, you’ll save 1/3 on Off Peak pay as you travel in London.
Attend the Welcome Fair during Fresher’s Week
It’s always a great idea to attend the Welcome Fair in Fresher’s Week. Nearly all of the societies at the university will have a stall, somewhere on campus. These range from academic societies, like the Law or Genetics society, through to Music Society or even the Harry Potter society. Sign up to get free sweets and added to their mailing list, telling you when their events are on. It’s worth signing up to all that take your interest and heading to several of their welcome events to find out more - you’ll meet lots of people! Head here to find out more about the societies Queen Mary has to offer: https://www.qmsu.org/societies
And finally, attend all introductory talks and lectures by your department
This is going to be your first chance to meet people on your course. These are the people you’ll likely be with for the next three or four years. And while all of the above is exciting, (maybe you’ll be living away from home, studying in London and having your first taste of independence) don’t forget that THIS is the reason you are at university. To get stuck in to a subject you are passionate about and study for that degree! The introductory talks are really important, so make sure you get to them.